Boxpod reports 300%+ rise in commercial property enquiries.
As the country attempts to bring things back on track after the lengthy coronavirus lockdown, the government this week is campaigning for all workers to go back into their offices. Having seen a drastic fall in city centre commerce, the knock-on effects of working from home during the lockdown is being felt strongly across the board – but especially in the food and drink sector.
This appears to be one of the main driving forces behind the government’s change in advice in England, urging all workers to get back into the workplace – providing that it has been made ‘COVID secure’ and is safe to do so. This advice does, however, only apply to England, with the devolved governments in the UK still recommending working from home if possible.
This change in government policy appears to have instigated a flurry of interest in the commercial property market – a welcome sign that the country is, indeed, keen to get back to something resembling ‘normal’.
Whilst much has been made of the changes in the role of the workplace as a result of the pandemic, here at Boxpod we have noticed a substantial rise of 169% in visits to our website compared to March and April, and a massive 335% rise in commercial property enquiries. This suggests that businesses are now feeling more confident, overcoming their previous cautiousness with regard to their acquisition and rental of commercial property, offices, and retail units, a few months ago.
It is, of course, true to say that many businesses will have likely put their plans to move on hold during the lockdown due to the uncertainty that we suffered. But as the country begins the next phase of its response to the coronavirus pandemic, we are seeing an easing of the backlog as things begin to get moving again.
Businesses that were contemplating moving premises before the pandemic hit are now once again looking at their options with regards to finding their new premises. This can’t, however, account for such a dramatic increase.
Increase in Working from Home
Changes in the country’s workplace culture suggest that we are likely to be seeing more people working from home. This doesn’t equate to doom and gloom in the commercial property market, however – as the rise in interest that we have seen indicates.
An increase in the number of people working from home is something that we have been seeing gradually over the last few years and it certainly appears that the coronavirus pandemic has shunted this along, becoming more of a revolution as opposed to gradual evolution. However, we are noticing that although some employees are looking to work more from home, there is still a real necessity for commercial premises as well.
There may be a shift towards different office space options – hot-desking or flexible workspaces, for example, as well as areas for collaboration and somewhere to make the effort of going into an office space really count.
With greater flexibility in the ways that people are working we are also likely to see businesses looking for a better quality workspace – one that is conducive to the well-being of their staff, considerate of the environment, or more indicative of a business’s brand and values. These are all attributes that are taking more of a presence in a business’s list of requirements when it comes to finding the best business unit for them.
Hub and Satellite Offices
For businesses that are looking to change the set-up of their commercial property, an option that seems to be gaining in popularity is the hub-and-spoke office model. This would consist of a central hub office, supported by a network of satellite offices on the outskirts of the city – or the spokes.
This model allows for less commuting time for employees whilst maintaining a degree of the face-to-face contact that is so important to many businesses and can also be supported through the increased use of technology in many sectors.
Another consequence of this model is that we could see a reinvigoration of the local high street. With more people spending their time in more local settings, the cafes and restaurants, smaller shops, and local SME’s will have more opportunities to be nourished.
These changes in the way that businesses are modelling their office setup mean that we are likely to continue to see greater activity in the commercial property market.
UK Government Return to Work Guidelines
The government has this week, changed its message regarding the workplace, indicating that the country now needs to get back on its feet and that it is now safe to go into work. According to the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, when speaking to Sky News, “Your employer should have made arrangements which are appropriate to make sure it is coronavirus-safe to work.”
The guidelines set out by the government propose a range of different measures from social distancing to regular cleaning, to the use of PPE where appropriate, to the management of the workforce attendance, giving employees more peace of mind in terms of going into work, and businesses more confidence and a better understanding of their future in terms of their business unit requirements.
As businesses begin to adapt to the inevitable changes that post-lockdown Britain will bring, we are likely to see differences in their requirements when it comes to their commercial property, retail units, and business premises.
Changes in the way that we are working in the future can lead to changes in both the setup of the commercial workspace and how it is used, as well as its location.
Businesses are potentially facing some challenging few months (and maybe even years) and it is important that they can adjust to the new commercial world. This means potentially changing their premises and with the economic uncertainty that the world is currently anticipating, it is important for businesses to be physically in the best place possible.
By encouraging the workforce to return to the office, the government is forcing businesses to look into the structure of their commercial property and this, along with the lockdown backlog, is likely to be why we are seeing a healthy interest in the rental of business units.